Posted by Daniel Tran on 13/1/2016
For a lot of students, January is a month-long period of holidays before the semester starts again. And while we’re all enjoying ourselves, we often forget about maintaining our physical health, or improving it for that matter. Sure, some may use their time in these holidays to stay in good shape, and that’s a commendable effort. But what how does this all relate to studying?
Firstly, we need to remember the fundamental aspects of a healthy diet and the benefits they yield. If you look at the (apparently improved?) Food Pyramid, you can see what an ideal diet should consist of. As it turns out, most of these food categories offers benefits that can give you the edge during studying, homework and perhaps even exams:
- Fish contains fatty acids, which contribute greatly to the brain’s ability to focus and learn more effectively. Nuts contain iron, which is useful for providing the brain with oxygen and increases mental alertness and information retention.
- Wholegrain foods enhance the brain’s memory and provide long-term energy, since they take longer to digest and therefore keep you fuller for longer.
- Fruits contain antioxidants, which improve blood flow to the brain and enhance the brain’s memory. Similarly, vegetables such as spinach contain folic acid, which also assists with memory maintenance by carrying oxygen to the brain.
While dairy foods and healthy fats don’t contribute drastically to study effectiveness compared to other food groups, it’s fair to say that the Food Pyramid is certainly relevant to good study performance.
On that note, what you drink is equally important as what you eat. In most cases, water is your go-to drink when trying to maintain a healthy diet, as it’s the ideal liquid to avoid dehydration which can decrease your focus, memory and mood. Plus, it’s widely available and generally cheaper than most other drinks.
Coffee and some energy drinks can also be useful in moderation during the correct times of the day, since they contain caffeine which stimulates the brain to feel more alert. It’s important to control your doses and ensure not to ingest too much caffeine, otherwise the brain will be restless and unable to focus clearly.
Paired with healthy eating, it would be natural to mention the benefits of regular exercise. While it may be obvious that physical activity improves one’s physical health, it also brings positive effects to mental performance as well:
- Aerobic exercise, such as jogging and cycling, can help improve blood flow around the body and to the brain.
- Regular physical activity also controls certain chemicals in the brain, such as endorphins, to maintain better morale levels, reduce stress and improve sleeping patterns.
- Exercise also increases the capacity of energy produced in the body, by increasing the number of mitochondria in the body’s cells.
So how much physical activity would be recommended? According to the Australian Department of Health, people who are 17 years old or below should engage in 60 minutes of physical activity perday. For those 18 years old and above, they should try to maintain 2-5 hours of physical activity per week.
In summary, your study success can be greatly influenced by what you eat and drink, as well as the amount of physical exercise you’re engaged in. By maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle, you can be better prepared for the challenges your studies present to you.